Whoever said the best things in life are free never spent very much time in Las Vegas. That’s okay though, because while things may not be free (unless you get some good comps – which not having money to start with makes nearly impossible) there are certainly ways to have a great time with only a little doe in Vegas.
Strip anyone? Not likely if you are on a budget, unless you come on a Tuesday mid-winter somewhere in between any major Holidays.
The very lowest nightly rates anywhere on the strip at any time of year start at quite a bit over $100. And we’re talking the 1 bedroom in the corner somewhere between the mezzanine and the Housekeeper’s locker. You can get a much nicer room for way less money somewhere else.
Less than a mile off the strip you have gangs of less well-known hotels, with equal accommodations in some instances for a fraction of the price. Station Casinos dot Las Vegas from the north side to Henderson.
These are always cheaper than the Strip, cater to a local crowd, and you may find they are quite a bit of fun. About 15 minutes from the Strip north on Rancho are the Texas and Sante Fe. Very nice local casinos for way less money, and they’re right next to one another, so it’s almost like a sickly, generic, Strip twin brother – if by twin brother you mean Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the movie Twins. Still very nice though. Some other off Strip casinos include: Red Rock, Clarion La Quinta, Best Western, and more. Check their rates and they should be quite a bit less than the Strip.
Downtown is always a good bet too. You may have to find a hotel a block or so from the Fremont Experience to get the best rates, but they universally will be less than the Strip no matter what’s going on.
And like any city, Las Vegas has its share of hostels located on seedy streets where most are uncomfortable walking late at night. You can find rooms in these ill-reputed neighborhoods for as little as $20 a night in some cases. Why not? It’s not like if you get mugged you have any money to steel right?
There probably is not a city in the world with as much absolutely free entertainment per square mile as Las Vegas. Here are some of the cool FREE things you have to see if you are here – no matter what your budget is:
And the list could go on for pages. Just about every casino
Downtown and on the Strip has something to do for free.
And if you spend your time Downtown (a good idea on a budget) many of the casinos have $2 drink specials – maybe not the best deal, but considering most of the strip charges as much as $10 for a single drink, this sounds pretty good.
It’s a natural imperative that at some point if you are alive and breathing during around a 24hr period – you will have to eat to survive. This is normal so don’t get overly concerned if you’ve spent the entire day drinking $2 margaritas and jumping from free show to free show and suddenly there is a rumbling in your stomach.
Off the strip buffets are notoriously inexpensive, many offering deals like $5 all you can eat, or $2 shrimp cocktail. Is it the greatest shrimp cocktail ever? Who cares? You’re drunk and hungry.
And did you know that if you are a tourist in Vegas, we don’t actually physically fence you in on the Strip or Downtown? It’s true. Vegas is an actual city with real people, and we have all of the normal restaurants you’d find in a normal city – selling food at non-tourist local prices! Heck, we even have grocery stores! The nearest to the Strip is about 1.5 miles East on Tropicana, the same on Spring Mountain/Twain going East (Twain East of the Strip and Spring Mountain West, it’s the same road).
So you love to gamble, but you’re on a tight budget. No Vegas trip is complete without at least an attempt at coming out on top of the house. Surprisingly there is 1 hold-out right on the Strip for cheap gambling. It is the only non-corporate casino on the Strip and the bane of MGM/Mirage, Boyd Gaming, and Wynn. Casino Royale is the little independent casino that could right across from the Mirage. They always have the lowest limits on the Strip, and it is always a lot of fun. Off the Strip you’ll find low limits at any of the local Casinos including all Station Casinos, and the Downtown area naturally will be far less expensive.
Las Vegas does not have the vibrant public transportation of most major cities like NY, SF, or LA, it does exist though. $2 will get you up and down any of the major streets off the Strip, and routes usually have a wait time between 15 and 30 minutes per stop. Double-decker trolleys take tourists up and down Las Vegas Blvd 24/7. And the little-used Tram runs the length of the Strip for way less money than any cab ride. Of course if you really want to see the Strip and Downtown up close, walking is a great way to do it. Just be sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes, it’s bigger than it looks.
Hitchhiking is an option – not the safest but it’s been done. More likely you want to look at connecting flights out of the LA area or Phoenix because they usually have several flights a day and so are less expensive. Driving will save you money if you are coming from CA, AZ, CO, or Utah – and depending on the city and how freaked out security at the airport happens to be that day, you may even get here quicker.
Busses and Trains are always the cheapest, also the most scenic. So check into these two great options if you want to save a little money.